Court rules ex-DPM Zahid has to enter defence over 47 charges in CBT, bribery, money laundering trial

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court January 24, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court January 24, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will now have to enter his defence in his trial involving 47 charges, the High Court ruled today.

High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah found that prosecution has proven the ingredients of all 47 offences with which Zahid was charged.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer had previously argued that his client has “immunity” from being prosecuted for 46 of the 47 charges due to him having truthfully answered the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) questions, while the prosecution had argued that it was illogical to interpret the law to give such immunity to an accused person merely for having disclosed information to the MACC during investigations and also called it a “last-minute” claim.

The judge today said there was “no merit” to the argument that Ahmad Zahid is entitled to such immunity.

Giving his decision briefly, the judge today outlined the three types of offences while saying that the prosecution had succeeded in proving a prima facie case that Ahmad Zahid would have to enter his defence against.

“With respect to the 12 charges under Section 409 of the Penal Code, after conducting a maximum evaluation of the prosecution’s evidence, I find that the prosecution have proven the ingredients of all 12 charges under Section 409 and thus has successfully made out a prima facie case against all 12 charges. I therefore call upon the accused to enter defence for all 12 charges,” the judge said of the 12 criminal breach of trust charges.

As for the eight corruption charges under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, the judge similarly found that the prosecution had made out its prima facie case for all eight charges.

“I also find the presumption under Section 50(1) of the MACC Act has risen against the accused, I therefore call upon the accused to enter his defence on all the eight charges,” the judge said.

The judge also called upon Ahmad Zahid to enter his defence in relation to all 27 money-laundering charges, after similarly finding that the prosecution had made out a prima facie case for all 27 charges.

The judge then said Ahmad Zahid will now have the three options of giving a sworn statement while testifying under oath from the witness stand, or giving an unsworn statement from the dock, or remaining silent.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh then informed the court that his client has chosen to give a sworn statement. In other words, Ahmad Zahid will be testifying as a defence witness in his own defence.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― faces 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

The trial against Ahmad Zahid started on November 18, 2019, with the prosecution having called in 99 prosecution witnesses to testify against the former deputy prime minister over more than 50 days of trial.

The prosecution on March 19, 2021 rested its case after all 99 witnesses had testified, with the High Court then hearing submissions from both the prosecution and defence over 24 days before arriving at today’s decision.

Ahmad Zahid is a trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi and was also made the sole authorised person who could sign the foundation’s cheques. The foundation is registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, and is aimed at eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor.

How a criminal trial works

In a criminal trial, the prosecution would present its case by producing evidence and calling in prosecution witnesses to testify, with the court to then decide whether the prosecution has shown a prima facie case and whether the accused would then need to enter defence.

One of the possible scenarios is where the court decides that the prosecution has not shown a prima facie case, which would mean the accused would walk free from the charges.

If the court decides that the prosecution has shown a prima facie case that would require the accused to choose whether to put up a defence, the accused can testify and call in defence witnesses, before the court decides if the accused is guilty or not guilty of the charges. It is only if a person is found guilty that the court would then proceed to deliver sentencing such as the fine amount or jail term, depending on the type of offences committed and the facts of the case.

Another possible scenario in trials generally is that the court could decide that the accused person has to enter defence on only some of the charges, while acquitting the accused of the other charges.

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